Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton

Organized by the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina

Connecticut artist Clare Leighton (1898-1989) was a leading figure in the revival of the art of wood engraving in the early 20th century. She was also a prominent figure in the art of illustration, providing pictures for her own writing as well as classic and contemporary literature.

More about this exhibition

Born in London to an artistic family, Leighton studied wood engraving in Great Britain before moving to the U.S. during World War II. Settling first in Baltimore, she moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1943 and served as a visiting art lecturer at Duke University from 1943-1945. She came to New England in 1951 when she was commissioned to design a set of twelve engravings of “New England Industries” for use on Wedgewood plates. In 1952 she built a home in Woodbury, Connecticut and spent the remainder of her life there and on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She is well-remembered in the Woodbury community as a cheerful, forthright woman, a truly gifted artist and a craftsman of unspeakable courage, drive and discipline.

During her career, she wrote 15 books and created more than 700 prints. The natural world and her surroundings were a continuous source of inspiration. Her timeless images reveal an abiding interest in and respect for the earth and those who tend it, advocating the virtue of hard labor and the rhythms of nature. On the surface, her subjects are simple working people — the ploughman, the washerwoman, the net mender, the cotton picker — but Leighton portrays them and their labor with dignity and reverence.

Throughout her career, Leighton faced the challenges of bias against not only her gender but also the validity of wood engraving illustration as a legitimate means of artistic expression. Even against such challenges, Leighton persevered and strove to make her art original statements of spirit and aesthetic expression. Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand will focus on the legacy she created within her art, her writing and her commitment to the field of printmaking. The exhibition was organized by the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina and is supplemented with works from the collection of the Mattatuck Museum Arts & History Center and with works drawn from private collections. An illustrated catalogue, published by the Mint Museum with three scholarly essays will accompany the exhibit. A gallery guide, written by Marc Chabot, will tell the story of her Woodbury years.